The problem of not owning your audience

The social connection

Just a little up-front note: I’m a game developer, so I write from that point-of-view. However, most of this translates to probably many other crafts and businesses, so read on!

Since the start of this year, my main goal has been to improve my connection with the people who play my games. I’ve started various adventures with this goal in mind: I became much more active on Instagram, the newsletter had a huge boost of new members because I added a little pop-up box to my games asking if people who love the game would be interested in signing-up for exclusive sketches, information, tips&tricks and more by simply entering their email address ; and they only got this box after they started the game for the 3rd time, making sure they most likely are interested in the game.

Finally I started doing a weekly Youtube ‘show’  (new episode every Thursday!) where the main goal is to show the process behind my games, my work, my day to day stuff, and give the viewers a small glimpse into the world of their friendly neighborhood game developer: me!

However, as great as some of these “experiments” have been going, the problem for me is that all these connections exist on platforms that I have no control or say over. At any point Youtube might stop allowing free video uploads, Instagram might shutdown and fold into Facebook, or Twitter and Facebook die a quick death as everybody finally moves to a new and better social network.  So even if my connections are growing on all those platforms.. they are only “my” connections for as long as those platforms allow them to be.

The Magic Solution

The solution would of course be one large… nay, HUGE! platform, owned by me, containing everything: a weekly behind the scenes show, personal developer status updates, fun filled daily photos, and all my games ready to be played or bought with a big.. nay HUGE -BUY NOW- button..

I would call it… my website!

Sadly, getting people to come to a website has proven a pain for even the biggest sites out there, and they have people working on just that EXACT problem, a lot (or some) money to throw at it, AND people to do the actual work for them.

So does a website still have purpose for a small game developer? Do people even visit a site? and if they do, why do they visit the site?  I did a quick little poll on twitter last week:


So it’s pretty clear: forums are dead!  Altho I do keep the forum around, because it’s still found and used by gamers to post their questions about my games, and the point of this is not to remove functionality, but find useful functionality for a website.

The worrying result of the poll is the amount of people that don’t visit a game-developer site AT ALL. That means the only way to connect with these people is either through social media networks OR, even worse, just your game. Right now I don’t have any ideas on how to reach these people, and it’s an interesting problem.

So the other two groups are the less worrying ones. I don’t think the group, looking for new games, is a frequent visitor to sites tho. In most cases these people will only come to your site AFTER they read about a new game on some other media site, BUT if you can get the word out there, they will take some time to find and visit the developer site. A good solution for this would be to have extra details and information on your website which isn’t in press-releases or very apparent on other social media.

The group that comes for blogs and news, is luckily the biggest, BUT as with all other statistics, keep in mind that a lot of the people voting in this poll are either my followers or other game-developers who are all more likely to be interested in this to begin with.

Ideas to toy with

Okay, so the first couple of thoughts on this are: I need to do more blogging again! Hence this article post right here, I was pretty active in the blogs before, posting a lot of updates on the games I’m working on and business thingies.. but I was never sure if I was reaching an audience with it. The other problem has been, and still is, that I like doing Youtube videos, and I cover a lot of the things I would normally blog about, in those videos!

A visual update of the game I’m working on, with gameplay footage, just makes a lot more sense than a few paragraphs describing that same gameplay footage. So without those, almost weekly, blog topics gone, I have to re-invent my blog a bit.. and this poll did give me that incentive to do so, so I’ll hopefully get back to blogging a bit more.

Another idea I have is, maybe, add some playable html5-games to the website. Altho I don’t want it to turn into a game portal, but I still have some HTML5 versions of older games, so maybe that’s an idea. OR maybe I can come up with funny little toys or pages for my released games, which, when visited and clicked through can give you some tips&tricks or exclusive unlock info for new characters and such.

I can then communicate those things from within the game, and hopefully attract players to the website, and then maybe that can hook them into other things on the site.

So those are just some things I’m toying around with. I like how my website is currently looking and running, but I want it to have more purpose and I want to get a more direct connection with my gamers. The newsletter is a great example of having a direct connection with players, BUT I don’t use it a lot because it always feels a bit intrusive to invade somebody’s inbox like that. There is a difference between people coming to you (visiting a site) versus you going TO people (filling their mailbox).

What are your ideas about a game developer website? What type of things would really make you visit the site almost as much as a social network? Let me know in the comments!

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